News / Asia

In Afghan North, US-Backed Militias Spur Local Backlash

Bethany Matta

In an effort to counter a growing insurgency in northern Afghanistan, two U.S.-backed programs in Kunduz have recruited local militias to oppose Taliban militants in the area.  But while the militias are better at fighting the Taliban on the battlefield, their methods turn local populations against them.

"I’m a farmer and work daily as a laborer," said one man in Kunduz who left his village for 11 months to herd sheep and make money in nearby provinces. "My mom, my two brothers and even my sister are disabled and my dad passed away last year. It’s only me to support the whole family.”

The farmer, who does not want to use his name, returned to his village recently.  But the U.S.-backed security forces that the local residents call Arbakai were suspicious of his long absence.  He says the commander demanded he sell half his land to pay them off, but he refused.

“A few days ago he arrested me again," he said. "He brought me to his camp, tied my hands and tortured me. Then he released his dog on me. The dog attacked me and bit my knee. He pushed me to the wall, my whole face was bleeding. “

Similar stories have become more common in Kunduz and neighboring provinces, where two U.S.-funded programs - the ALP, or, Afghan Local Police and CIP, or, Critical Infrastructure Program - recruit local militias to provide security for districts with a shortage of police officers.

Recruiting armed local residents for security has advantages: they are more effective at weeding out insurgents because they are from the area; and so they know the land and the residents.

In exchange for keeping the Taliban out, the militias are trained by U.S. special forces for a few weeks. The milita members are also provided with weapons and a salary of $150 a month.

Nibikichi is a CIP commander who oversees some 220 fighters known as Arbakai in the Qala-i-zal district. Some accuse him of widespread abuses including torture, unlawful imprisonment and imposing illegal taxes. He denies the allegations.

“If someone is complaining about me, he has to come and prove my guilt in front of the elders," he said. "If I am guilty, then the elders can hang me. Otherwise, if they are lying, the government should ask them to do the same.”

The militias now outnumber Afghan National Police in most districts by five to one, in some places the ratio is said to be even higher.

But as their numbers have grown, so have the abuses that government officials, political analysts and human rights groups had warned against.

“Originally people were in favor of the policy; they were protecting the area from the Taliban, but in the last few years there is no Taliban activity in the village," said Mirza Ali Tanai, a tribal elder from Kanam Village.  "Because the Arbakai have abused the people so much and the government is not doing anything about it, the people now people now support the Taliban. It’s a threat to the government.”

Hayatullah Amiri, head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission in Kunduz, says six cases of torture and murder have been referred to his office this year.  But the overlapping security forces in the region make it difficult to prosecute those responsible.

NATO forces in Afghanistan largely agree.  A spokesman said that people often confuse the Afghan local police for Arbakai. Nevertheless, he says the local police program has improved security in Kunduz. When abuses are reported, Afghan national police are required to investigate.

But far from Kabul, villagers say the local militias hold all of the power. The Kunduz laborer, like many others interviewed in the area, said they are scared and cannot complain or they will be arrested and tortured all over again. They say they will leave the area if they have to, or join the Taliban and fight back.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs